“TEDDY BOYS - the real thing- who visited ‘The Post’ to demonstrate the authentic
version of this youthful London craze. David Kelly (left) is in "Mississippi gambler
style" Tony Griffith (middle) is true to the trend though in no particular style, and
Ronald Bunting is in exact replica of Edwardian Fashion.
“The principal features are the long coats with fur trimmings (velvet) the drainpipe
trousers short of the ankles, the ‘Slim Jim’ ties, fancy waistcoats and gaudy socks.
Dressy materials like barathea and gabardine are essential. Between them, they have 10 other similar costumes. “The three youths, all 18 are native Londoners and of the opinion that Wellington's ‘Teddy Boys’ are not really that because they don't dress as well.” - Wellington Evening Post (New Zealand) May 1955.
From squaddies and other frequenters of Soho it didn’t take long for younger, teenaged siblings to catch on. It was not a slavish emulation. Teddy Boys were considerably different in terms of style, from the Neo-Edwardian era fashion started by Saville Row.
Teds incorporated elements of American Mississippi Gambler and American Western dress, such as Maverick Ties and Silk Brocade Waistcoats. They tended, initially, to wear separate, diverse trousers, waitcoat and jacket (see photo below; it’s how Uncle Roddy would’ve dressed, though his hair would’ve been longer), instead of matching 3-piece Drape suits (though Teddy Boys did wear them later in the decade).
A misconception repeated frequently is that Teddy Boys drew on American Zoot suits, worn by Blacks in Harlem, Chicago and points in between, and by Hispanics in East Los Angeles and American southwest. To an extent they did, in the sense that coats went beyond conventional length, but there the similarity ended.
The look was closer to the modified drape look worn by Filipino Americans in Stockton, San Francisco and throughout California’s Great Central Valley – though the similarity’s likely serendipitous and it’s unlikely that there were a sufficient number of Fil-Am soldiers on leave in the U.K. to directly influence the Teddy Boys.
Still, if one examines the style of the drape jackets in the two photos of at top and center right, then looks at the two photos at bottom right of Filipino American working class lads from the 1940s, a similarity in the cuts of the drape jackets is uncanny.
Initially, the jackets had a 'natural waistline' by being brought in at the waist as was the case with most conventional jackets. They also had skilfully built-up shoulders to give an unusually masculine appearance. As time went on, Teddy Boys dispensed with “natural waistlines” in favor of full drape with straight sides and complimented in all cases with a full back having a full piece of material that enabled the jacket to hang in a way that gave its distinctive box like appearance. At this point, any vents at the rear of the jacket were dispensed with, accentuating the square drape-like appearance (see the photo, top right, and contrast it with the earlier style of the jackets in center photo).
Initially, the jackets had lapels between 3½" and 4" wide with or without a velvet or moleskin collar. As time went on, lapels became narrower to as little as 1½" to 2" wide.
Jacket cuffs were generally made from the matching cloth or from velvet the same colour as the collar. These were a 2"-3" deep 'turned-back' cuffs called “Double” or “French” Cuffs with either a single button placed over the cuff at the top corner or a combination of a turned-back cuff and working cuff with 4 buttons.
Trousers were a bit more problematic, since it depended where you lived and how much you could afford to spend. Purists wore high-waisted ones with braces (suspenders), or sometimes a belt, known as “stovepipes.” Its front was double pleated and had slanting side pockets with rear flap or jetted pockets. Trouser bottom widths in the early 1950's were 17" or 18" bottoms and as time went on 16" bottoms became standard. The poorer Teds in the hinterlands fudged a bit, dispensing with the front pleats, with the trousers having about 14" bottoms.
Shirts tended to be overwhelmingly white, with small but substantial percentage of all black ones, though coloured shirts were not unheard of. They all had either a flyaway or a “Billy Erskine” collar. The Maverick tie, cravat, Boot Lace tie, a loosely tied bow tie or slightly later a Slim Jim Tie were all worn for neck ware. The waistcoat would be silk brocade, but sometimes velvet. For footwear, the choice at first was strictly highly polished black Oxford.
Later, brogues, crepe soled suede chukka shoes or boots, or the thicker crepe of Brothel Creepers were added to the mix. The hair was American in style, piled high into a pompadour, an elephant trunk quiff, or a silver dollar. Later, a greasy, lessy quiff with sideburns finished off with a “D.A.” down the back of the head became the most popular.